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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Exploring the Village of Thai in Koh Yao Noi

Chong Phli Village Motorbike Victim

Chong Phli Village

“This post goes back to over a year ago when I was hitchhiking through Southeast Asia to meet up with my friend in Chong Phli Village to go rock climbing for a few weeks. I am up to 127,000 words in my book and this is a small excerpt from one of the chapters. I have almost completed my rough draft of “Jungle: Wanderin’ West” and just need to edit it before I start sending it out to publishers. Wish me luck. I am hoping it turns out to be a great read for all of you who have been interested in my stories and whereabouts over the past few years.”

For the first time in a month I stopped hitchhiking to enjoy a few weeks of climbing with my buddy Bond from the States, meeting up in Chong Phli Village.  Somehow we always found a way to meet up with each other regardless of location.  I met up with him countless times before, particularly on my bicycle tour in Indiana and Colorado, so meeting up with him in Thailand felt no different.

Chong Phli Village Bungalows in Thailand

Chong Phli Village Bungalows in Thailand

We climbed Spirit Mountain in Chong Phli Village and in the tranquil islands of Koh Yao Noi, Thailand, off the coast of Krabi.  Fine limestone tufas, cavernous rock and an array of climbs spanning all difficulties filled the region.  I was not an avid climber by any means, not compared to Bond anyway, who spent numerous hours at the rock gym, training daily, climbing all across the United States and the world.  He pushed me in many aspects of the sport, sometimes to the point of frustration, climbing routes I had no business on.  But, I enjoyed the views, the physical and mental exhaustion with sending a route, or just the feeling of the outdoors.  There was nothing quite like dangling from rope 300 feet off the ground with my best friend, looking down at the clear turquoise ocean beneath our feet, knowing we scaled the side of a limestone tower in one of the most beautiful paradises, a getaway from reality.

Our first few days in Krabi we climbed the dusty tufas of Spirit Mountain in Chong Phli Village, breaking free of the routes for random exploration.  Bond brought a 2-person tent along with all his heavy gear.  We wanted to camp, but the owner of the bungalows disappeared.  So we trekked through the unknown following the perimeter of the mountain through the lush jungle looking for a place to setup camp.  We bushwhacked through palm trees, crouching through cavernous limestone holes, descending steep, slippery grades until stumbling upon an overhanging cliff face freeing us from one important element, the rain!  Dry leaves rustled under our feet as we set up the poles to the neon orange tent, stashing our gear inside to continue exploring the vast terrain surrounding us.

Multi-pitch Rock Climbing Thailand

Rock Climbing Thailand with Trevor Stuart. My first experience doing multi-pitch.

We roamed around unsure of our direction or what we were looking for, wandering around the perimeter of Spirit Mountain, and free climbing slabs of limestone.  My fingers pained as I positioned them on the rough rock, callousing over and forming blisters from my lack of climbing.  I only climbed outdoors with Bond.  This was the first time I set my hands on rock in almost a year and it hurt.

It was not your typical climbing with rope, proper shoes, quick-draws and a grigri (belay device).  We climbed free of gear, bouldering small 20-foot sections of limestone, traversing steep pitches covered in dirt, and hanging onto bare shrubbery as we planted our feet.  Bond stopped as we scaled half of the mountain, reaching a point of no return.  I peered behind me up a small grade of mountainside and saw a pitch black hole in the shape of a cave.  We slid across the rubble, dirt and rock falling off the cliff face, as we neared the dark orifice.  What was inside?  Everything looked black.  It looked like an ice cream scoop chunk of rock the size of a dome shelter removed from the limestone.  But, why was it black and not sandy brown?  I neared closer, tiptoeing into the cave.  A cold breeze bellowed from the mouth of the cave chilling my skin as I inched closer.  Bond stood back, waiting for approval to enter.  “HOLY SHIT MAN, I whispered loudly!”  The wall moved with small flutters of black wings lined up like an army of soldiers prepared for war.  “What, Bond uttered whimsically?”

Spirit Mountain Chong Phli Village

Just outside of Chong Phli Village Bungalows looking at Spirit Mountain in Thailand

“The wall is covered with fuckin’ bats dude.  They’re everywhere.  I thought the wall was black, but it’s not…just the whole fuckin’ wall is covered in them, come look.  I whispered afraid to wake them and get covered in guano or worse bitten.”

“No shit man…sweet as,” said Bond chuckling under his breath.

He turned on his video camera to capture the footage as I slowly paced around the cave, finding an opening with a beam of sunlight protruding through.  I wondered what was on the other side…maybe another cave perhaps. Placing my feet in two footholds I reached up, crimping limestone in one hand and reaching into an open hole above me with the other.  I fell back losing my footing as a buzzing sound echoed from one of the many holes of limestone.

“What the fuck was that,” I yelled, as Bond stood there circling about the cave with his camera.

“Looked like a huge ass bee…or somethin’,” he said confusedly.

I shuddered backwards stumbling over my feet until bursting out into sudden shooting pain.

“FUCK…my ass…my ass…What the hell just stung my ass,” I rumbled?

I pulled down my pants in a non-homosexual manner.

“Dude no homo, check my ass cheek, I think I have a stinger in it…it fuckin’ hurts,” I squealed.

Bond chuckled in a girlish giggle, snickering and laughing uncontrollably with his video camera capturing every moment of my bare-naked ass.

“Dude seriously, am I gonna be alright?  Are Thai bees poisonous?  What should I do?”

“Hahahahah…I think you’ll live,” he said in a dry tone, with the camera lens pointed at the enflamed, red bulb forming on my ass.

I pulled my pants back up.  “Thanks dick…”

I was not allergic to bees, but damn did my ass cheek feel like an erupting volcano.  The burning sensation mildly subsided as we walked back to camp, removing the stinger from my tender rump carefully, calling it a day to remember on Spirit Mountain.

The routes at Chong Phli Village scarcely ranged from a few dusty, low-grade, tufa climbs, to steeper pitches with waiting times on the routes.  We shortly realized after a day of climbing we needed a wider spectrum of routes and we would not find it on Spirit Mountain.  Whole walls were in the process of being drilled and bolted so where would we go next?  Certainly not our spider infested camp along the mountainside, but another free night of camping seemed to suffice for the time being.

In the morning we hit the road for Ao Nang, hearing about islands off the coast of Krabi, a climber’s paradise.  Tourists clung to the sidewalks of Krabi shuffling between their luggage bags, waiting for taxis and boats to arrive to take them to their hotels.  Our Jeepney arrived taking us on a short ride to the dock where we waited for our speed boat to depart.  Long tail boats swung around near the coast boarding passengers for private rides to the islands surrounding the coastline.  They resembled oversized canoes with large propellers sunk a few feet into the ocean causing them to look bottom heavy with a slight upward slant.  They skipped through the water like rocks, their antique wooden frame catching the true feeling of island life in Thailand.  We boarded our speed boat sitting in one of the back rows on school bus seats.  I looked out the back watching the huge wake we left behind between all the unfamiliar faces of tourists flashing pictures and videos with their cameras.  Bond took out his video camera and started taping with a goofy, commentator voice trying to capture scenes of our island life.  He pushed the camera in my face acting like a clown as I shifted my eyes through the shaded windows trying to catch a view of islands in the distance.  The motion of the ocean lulled us to sleep and after a half hour we reached the island.  I opened my eyes and picked the sleepy dirt from its crevices as we lined up behind the rest of the passengers waiting to hop off the boat.  Bond packed a backpack full of clothes and a duffel bag the size of two full suitcases.  It weighed at least 50 lbs. making walking long distances unreasonable.

Krabi Hitchhiking Flying Signs

Hitchhiking Thailand

We stepped off the boat onto a dock full of vans ready to transport tourists into town.  I wanted to walk, but knew with Bond’s luggage he might die of exhaustion and never make it.  We took a van with no destination in mind, having no prior arrangements.  The driver suggested the rock climbing bungalows.  We nodded in agreement, having no idea where that would take us, our eyes peering out the back of the truck as we cruised around the winding roads of the island.

For us, we wanted to go where the climbers stayed to meet people with similar interests and possibly get boats coordinated to climb Grateful Wall a little north of Paradise Resort off the northern part of the island.  We had heard about it from some local climbers in Chong Phli Village, a shady paradise, free of the sun 24-hours a day.

We arrived at Namtok Bungalows where Bond booked a room and we split the cost of an automatic scooter at 150 baht per person per day.  I slept outside in a hammock on the porch, not wanting to share the small bed with him, enjoying the cool ocean night breeze with each peaceful night of sleep.  I lay there suspended in the air between the wooden frames of the bungalow.

Namtok attracted all kinds of people across the world.  We met people from the United Kingdom, Thailand and Sweden.  It was like a Swedish ghetto there.  All of them came out on vacation for a few weeks of climbing between their jobs.  The women did not shave their pits, but they all could climb, and well at that.

We met a couple from the United Kingdom who traveled around the world for the past year climbing in different countries, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Europe to name a few.  There was a different breed of people on the island, and I experienced my first hostel without having to sneak into it or fear getting laid by an ugly German chick with a pitted face and manly voice.  I liked it.  I felt like I fit in despite my limited climbing and lack of gear.  It felt like family.  We all ate breakfast together and sometimes dinner, climbing different portions of the island during the day, alternating routes and ropes between different groups of climbers.

Koh Yao Noi Sunrise

Sunrise in Koh Yao Noi near Namtok Bungalows

The majority of our day we spent grinding it out on the wall for spectacular climbing.  We dug into multi-pitch climbing for the first time in our lives experiencing some of the longest climbs in my life.  I remember the feeling of limestone rock rubbing up against the bottom of my climbing shoes while I dangled 300+ feet off the ground, just feet away from the final anchor on a four pitch climb.  I looked out at the scenery surrounding me. Silhouettes of small islands looked off in the distance.  A cloudless, endless blue sky blended into the ocean like as if an artist painted a canvass of blues before my eyes.  Sweat filled every inch of my body, but nothing compared to it, not in the slightest.  We stood there with our feet planted against the limestone towers like gods looking out at the sea.  What an immaculate feeling it was and the routes never got old even after 15 days of intense, non-stop climbing.

Despite the product of happiness from climbing along with the adrenaline, there was an associated fear and risk with it.  Climbing scared me deeply.  It was not the fear of heights, but the fear of falling that made me queasy to my stomach.  Lead climbing especially scared me due to the potential fall factor, but in order to see the views I needed to do it on the multi-pitch routes, so I did.

But ironically, lead climbing and experiencing my first multi-pitch routes did not scare me nearly as much as the sketchy dirt road to reach “Big Tree Wall” and “The Mitt” (a few names of the climbing walls on Koh Yao Noi).  Each morning we awoke dreading the unsafe, 45-minute drive to the wall.  Neither one of us knew how to drive a scooter.  We literally handed over 300 baht each day and kept the set of keys along with two helmets for our time on the island.  There was no paperwork or legal forms to sign, insurance required by law or permits required to drive a motor scooter.  We just put the keys in, turned on the ignition and wobbled along the road.  Most of the drive we putted along cement until turning off down a beaten path, following the power-lines to the northern part of the island, with a narrow dirt roadway taking us through the dense jungle.  Small houses made of bamboo and wood stood off the roadway with happy smiles exploding off every native.  Pot holes the size of small sinkholes encroached the road making it a doozy to avoid getting flung over the handlebars.  Even with much practice of taking the same route daily we still crashed multiple times.  We rode where the roadway looked most practical not to crash, which often times meant driving on both sides of the dirt path, into oncoming traffic.  This was common practice in Thailand, especially on the island.  But it also made for a dangerous drive along the path around steep curves and bends, up steep hills and around sandy banks.  Several times we ate shit, swerving off the path into bushes, the scooter sliding out from underneath us as we skid through sand, yanking us over the handlebars, while we winced in pain.  We practically started playing rock-paper-scissors shoot for who would drive, loathing it each day, in both the morning and night.  If I did not drive, I held onto the back of the motorbike with my fingertips as my abs tightened, the huge backpack on my shoulders clanked over each bump, counting down the minutes to safety. It always surprised me when one of the most expensive resorts on the island resided near the climbing walls.  Who in their right mind would drive that path every day to reach civilization?  We walked away each day with scrapes, bruises, and gashes on our legs, forearms, knees and faces, not from climbing, but just from driving that damn scooter.  And here sat a pristine hotel on the shores of a private beach, away from all the touristy areas, away from most of the island life.  Just a death race to Paradise Resort Hotel and we drove it every day except when we climbed on “Grateful Wall” and split the cost of a speed boat with the other climbers at Namtok.

For three weeks we ate an assortment of meat from street vendors on Shish Kebabs, consisting of liver, lungs, and all other unknown organs hanging on a long toothpick-like stick. Few spoke English so we did not know the foods we ate, but they tasted delectable enough.  The same little meat stand brought us back each day wanting more, even if the meat sat out for hours in the hot-baking sun, with flies buzzing around it and no food codes to hinder them from selling it.  We set aside enough time each day to make our regular food stops.  Every morning started off at the corner mart with rolls of sticky rice wrapped around jackfruit or mango.  The sweet burst of energy gave us enough of a boost to hold out until dinner time for multiple rounds of food between the little meat stand.  We left the wall before sun-down to reach it in time.  This was just a snack though, a mere appetizer to the true amount of food we consumed on a daily basis.  Climbing for eight hours plus, every day, put us in a calorific deficit.  Both Bond and I were eaters.  Bond more so than myself, whom once consumed 72 ounces of steak and a pound of mashed potatoes in 30 minutes when we were in college.  We ate three main courses daily.  Meals fit for kings for a mere few dollars consisting of rice dishes with beef, other meats and vegetables mixed with a spicy dressing.  The Thai people liked their spices.

After long days on the wall, many nights we winded down, smoking bunk weed we scored from a Swedish climber named Hampus at the bungalows.  He scored it from a local who probably grew it on the island.  We did not ask.  I did not want the death penalty for smoking herb or knowing about the dealer, but it got us high and made the pain from a long day of enduring blood-pumping forearms, stiff fingers, sore joints and achy muscles fade to limber, relaxing bliss.  We also got the munchies hardcore.  But unlike the States, dipping a few more dollars into my budget for the day actually put a meals-worth of food in my belly, a fresh meal at that.  Multiple nights we set out on a munchie mission for lassie’s, shakes, fried rice, curry, cashew dishes, or anything that would satisfy our hunger and we found it.

Those three weeks I felt lucky to have a true friend with me, experiencing some of the best moments of my life in another country with a different culture, food and way-of-life.  The hardest part of Thailand was saying my goodbyes to Bond, one of the people closest to me in my life, to go back to his normal life of nursing.  That feeling put a lump in my throat, making me hold back tears.  Although I knew we would meet down the road again.  Goodbye always took a while to say, even without words.

The dirt paths you take to get to Paradise Resort before hiking to the climbing walls.

The dirt paths you take to get to Paradise Resort before hiking to the climbing walls.

When we made it to the mainland Bond’s taxi stopped to pick him up.  After a brief man-hug, I watched him fade away and our time climbing in Thailand felt almost surreal.

Drugs Thailand

A Bittersweet Taste…Kratom

Thailand Drugs

“This is another short excerpt from my experience in Thailand with drugs. I did not take them intentionally, but randomly met some people who gave me Kratom leaves on my walk down Route 4 towards Trang, Thailand.”

Thailand Drugs

Thailand Drugs – Kratom Leaves

I awoke early morning on a pedestrian overpass above Route 4 in between Phatthalung and Trang, Thailand. Creativity played an important role in solidifying rides since holding a thumb out, flying a sign and walking rarely sparked anyone’s attention, at least not enough to stop, and pick me up. I walked down the road reading the signs as they decreased in distance one kilometer at a time. 171 km, 170 km, 169 km to Krabi, Thailand as the sizzling sun baked me like a potato, dragging my feet against the blazing asphalt. Shade was hard to come by, but I started to reach little villages on the outskirts of the city. I trotted past an auto shop where a group of men between the ages of 20 and 50 gathered around sitting on the porch drinking coffee and eating breakfast. They called out to me in a happy manner saying, “SAWAIDEE, SAWAIDEE,” then I heard a subtle, “hello” mixed in the crowd and it caught my attention. Despite my strict deadline to meet Bond in Chong Phli Bungalows I stopped to stretch my legs and mingle with the Thai villagers. Instantly they greeted me with cupful after cupful of instant coffee and they all began to nibble on these bright green leaves. Some ate two or three leaves, others indulged in one leaf and they chuckled offering me to partake in the delicacy. The suspicious looks on their faces dissuaded me from initially accepting, but I gave in momentarily after a father drove his kids to school. I threw my thought of drugs out completely because everyone seemed lucid and coherent. I nibbled away at the leafy structure, tossing bits into my mouth, swallowing the bitter taste as the whisker-like hairs tingled against my tongue. I waited some minutes without much effect so I indulged in more despite the bitterness. They handed me four extra leaves for my walk and I believe I ate six to eight in one sitting. A half hour passed as everyone lounged in a semi circle sitting Indian style and the effects started to hit me, but I confused it for drinking too much caffeine and started back down Route 4 towards Krabi. Paranoia slowly kicked in as my tongue numbed and limbs wobbled back-and-forth like noodles (Thailand drugs were potent, more so than I wanted them to be for that specific time-frame).

Thailand Drugs Kratom

Thailand Drugs with some random dude off the street who gave me Kratom Leaves without me knowing.

I walked for less than a kilometer before stopping at Phudinsow Coffee Shop where I bought the cheapest bag of chips and used the free WiFi to talk to Bond about my whereabouts. Then the drug really smacked me straight in the face. I slouched in a lawn chair outside, my face greasy, covered in sweat; my pupils looked like little, tiny, needles as I tried to focus on my laptop slowly nodding off from the numb feeling overwhelming my body. Laziness emasculated me in this devilish trance. I tried to move, but this heroin-like coma trapped my soul to the chair for five hours as I nodded in and out of sleep. The cashiers glanced at me asleep in the chair and giggled behind the glass windowpanes. Bond knew I was fucked up as we messaged each other and wanted me to save him some leaves, but I tossed them in a furious rage. I felt mind-raped as the day was stolen out from under me. The effects finally died away enough for me to break free of the chair to walk a few kilometers before sun-down. I set out down the road. My disoriented state needed rest immediately and my whole body ached as I pushed the drug out of my system. I stumbled up the road dragging my feet in a struggle until an old Thai woman pulled me aside letting me rest under the bamboo rooftop of her outdoor food stand. We did not understand each other, but she empathized with my exhausted state. I tried to nap and when I awoke minutes later she handed me a bowl of beef rice with a side of quail eggs. Before I knew it a family of Thai children, aunts, uncles and other neighbors and family members surrounded me. None of them spoke English, but we tried our best to communicate through sign language. I swayed my index and middle finger back and forth like a pair of legs walking down the street and then rested both hands underneath my head and shut my eyes as if going to sleep. I found that they understood this, but took it too literally, offering me a place to sleep in the confines of their home.

Hat Yai City Overlook

Hat Yai and the Hottie

Hitchhiking Hat Yai

I woke up extra early to make sure I didn’t miss Sirikorn’s wake-up call. Hopped in a hot shower for the first time in months and waited patiently. I actually took some time to write the previous blog post since it’s been a while since I wrote on here about my day-to-day journeys. Anyway, I watched the clock tick away, thirty minutes, an hour, an hour and a half. By this point I assumed she left and didn’t want to bring me to Hat Yai. I threw on my pack and slipped my phone into my pocket. As I turned around I heard this cute little voice and saw a tiny tan faced figure in the shadows of the door. Her little one greeted me.

Satun, Thailand

The hotel Sirikorn paid for where I stayed in Satun, Thailand!

“Good morninggggg…Liiiion.” I smiled and chuckled. That became my nickname for our time together. I double checked the room for any of my belongings, she grabbed my hand and pulled me out the door. Sirikorn apologized for being late, but I didn’t mind. No expectations!

She drove the three of us to her cousin’s house in Hat Yai. During the hour drive I barely heard a peep. Her daughter passed out in the back seat probably tuckered out from yesterday.

We pulled up to an empty house. My eyes shifted to her cousin, June, a beautiful, 25 year old, tall, slender, Thai woman, definitely a looker. She introduced me to her boyfriend and the lot of us munched on breakfast. A simple bowl of boiled rice and pork. Something I would make…nothing complicated or too delicious, but add some spices and sauce and it filled my stomach.

They just moved from another apartment in Hat Yai so the room lacked any furniture. A small 24″ tube television sat on a plastic table. We all ate in a circle on the floor.

June mentioned her sister was single. Honestly I would have taken her up on the offer if she looked and acted anything like June, but I want to keep traveling for now so I kept my mouth shut and just giggled.

Her boyfriend, Whit, drove us to the center of Hat Yai right near Prince of Songkla University. We made many pit stops. First, we stopped at the mall so June could buy some shirts for work. Then we waited at an attorney office while Sirikorn handed over documentation in Thai to “her friend…” Not too sure what that was about, but I just played with her daughter for the time being. She took a fancy to taking photographs of me and herself. She also enjoyed watching my videos and looking through the pictures on my phone.

The brief meeting ended shortly after it began. We hit the road again to grab some food, Betagro in Hat Yai, to be exact. I don’t know what I ate, but my tastes buds felt like they rode a roller coaster. One dish consisted of fried fish with spicy chili sauce. The other contained a salad full of crispy chicken nugget slices, lettuce, and apples laced with a sweet, white dressing. The rest of the table covered in spicy soups with pork and chicken legs. I ate my fair share of food after not eating much the day prior. They served the rice in mini terracotta flower pots (It reminded me of something my mother might do with her kitchen). They finished off the meal with ice cream. I declined, but appreciated the gesture.

Betagro Hat Yai

The terracotta pots filled with rice at the Betagro in Hat Yai while hitchhiking Hat Yai, Thailand!

By this point 3 PM rolled around. Whit took us to Dental Land for Sirikorn’s appointment. I thought maybe an hour and we’d be rollin’ on outta there, but jeez, 2.5 hours later and she finally walked out. I wasn’t complaining. After all I’m just along for the ride, whatever happens, happens. I could not figure out for the life of me what the dentist did, but I noticed her lack of smiling and figured she got a tooth pulled.

Prostitution Hat Yai

Haha…the prostitution flyers on the bathroom wall in Hat Yai

By this point I thought we might be headed home. Night dawned in as the sun washed away its colors and a light purple haze filled the sky above us. Whit drove us up a winding road and took us all to the Big Buddha where from atop this mountain we saw the city of Hat Yai booming beneath us. Bright city lights flickering showing a strong emphasis on the busiest parts of town as my eyes wandered down the highways. We basked in the beauty of the purple sky surrounding us as we chatted on the steps. I chased Sirikorn’s little one all over the place, but after awhile she tuckered me out and I began to feel sleepy.

Hat Yai City Overlook

Overlooking the city of Hat Yai from the Big Buddha statue. Hitchhiking Hat Yai shortly turned into Hitchhiking Satun

A breeze began to chill the hairs on my arm giving me goosebumps and the once purple sky faded to black. We hit the road for the central part of Hat Yai where we indulged in a Chinese Dinner at one of their favorite restaurants. The decor that lined the walls flaunted brightly gold colors engraved with Chinese dragons and warriors all surrounding a pond of coy fish. We originally sat down at a table near the pond, but the mosquitoes, relentless as they were, caused us to move to a comfier place. I don’t quite recall what we ate to be honest, but I remember it filling my tummy and watering my mouth for more.

The Chinese restaurant we ate at in Hat Yai!

The Chinese restaurant we ate at in Hat Yai!

After dinner we parted ways with June and Whit. I followed Sirikorn down the road, but we never turned on the street where we parked her vehicle, instead we continued walking into the Hat Yai Central Hotel. I assumed the night came to an end and she made reservations for the lot of us to stay in this hotel, but we walked past the front desk and up the steps to the second floor. I found myself taking off my trousers and putting on this weird maroon legging with a glory hole near my privates. I really had no idea what was going on at this point? Confused, I just followed along, unsure of whether I entered a whorehouse or a massage parlor. We both laid down on two mattresses sprawled out on the floor with pillows at the end of them. Then that’s when they went to work. Stepping on, pulling, rubbing, and executing maneuvers I never before felt in my life. To answer your question, “No, there was not a happy ending, it ended up being a full body Thai massage that Sirikorn treated me to!” After two hours of excruciating pain and pleasure I felt like a new man, limber and ready for the next day of travel to Langkawi Island.

Hat Yai Boutique Hotel

Our room at the Boutique Hotel

We walked back to the car and ended up crashing at the Boutique Hotel in Hat Yai. A hotel where I took the warmest shower I ever took on my whole entire tour through Southeast Asia.

The Boutique Hotel Hat Yai

The Boutique Hotel where I stayed with Sirikorn and her daughter my last night in Thailand!

Exploring the Village of Thai in Koh Yao Noi

Satun, Thailand and My Princess

Satun Thailand

I laid in bed under one sheet, freezing, while the AC blasted.  I rolled over and slightly opened my eyes after hearing the rustling of Trevor’s luggage.  My chest tightened and I held back my feelings of sadness and loneliness.  After 15 solid days of island life, climbing in Koh Yao Noi, Tonsai and Railay with my best friend, the idea of solo traveling again left a lump in my throat.  That vacation within a vacation marked the best climbing trip of my life!  Now I reverted back to solo hitchhiking, my destination Satun Thailand!

Multi-pitch Koh Yao Noi

Multi-pitch climbing in Koh Yao Noi. This view is from 300+ ft in the air…!

Limestone rock rubbed up against the bottom of my feet while I dangled 300+ feet from the final anchor on a four pitch climb.  I looked out at the scenery surrounding me. Silhouettes of small islands looked off in the distance.  A cloudless, endless blue sky blended into the ocean like an artist painted a canvass of blues before my eyes.  Sweat filled every inch of my body.  All of that, the product of intense climbing.

Multi-pitch Rock Climbing Thailand

Rock Climbing Thailand with Trevor Stuart. My first experience doing multi-pitch.

Our days consisted of fear, and adrenaline both on the wall and off.  Holding onto the back of the motorbike with my fingertips as my abs tightened and huge backpack clanked over each bump I counted down the minutes to safety.  Thoughts of sliding out in the sand, hitting a ditch or spinning out in gravel raced through my mind every time we drove to Paradise Resort (every day we climbed).

The dirt paths you take to get to Paradise Resort before hiking to the climbing walls.

The dirt paths you take to get to Paradise Resort before hiking to the climbing walls.

Did we ever crash? Hell yes we did.  Quite a few times actually.  On a rest day we took out the bike to the other side of the island.  Just as Trevor reached the top of a hill past a slippery section of road the front tire swerved left.  We screeched to a sudden stop.  I saw my GoPro fly out of my hand in slow motion and hit the ground as I flipped off the back of the bike landing off the road in the woods.  I stood up. I brushed the dirt off my body.  Walked away with a few scrapes and bruises.  Nothing too serious, but two feet further over the cliff could have been deadly.  No hard feelings though. The next day I crashed on the way to the climbing wall.  Traffic on this small dirt road is chaotic in the morning.  You drive wherever you can, which means sometimes the path takes you in the opposing lane of traffic so you must stay alert.  I turned the corner, heard a motorbike headed straight towards me, freaked out and in a panic shifted the bike left to get in the proper lane.  Smack! The sound of my face hitting the sand.  The back tire slid out from under us. My elbow gushed with blood and I stood up to a Thai man laughing at us.  He motioned to see if we were ok, but I didn’t take him seriously from the laughing. In retrospect, I laugh at the incident.  But just picture yourself putting along a narrow dirt road full of ditches, leaves, loose sand and gravel and only a small path to navigate.  Now add in two backpacks of gear, two people and a motorbike meant for a paved road.  It’s like riding a road bike down a gravel road.  With every turn the bike could slide right out from under you.

Exploring the Village of Thai in Koh Yao Noi

Exploring the Village of Thai in Koh Yao Noi

Our nights, clouds of smoke to mellow out the day and lead way to what felt like an endless supply of Thai food.  This left for an empty wallet and full stomach.  I miss the sweet taste of jackfruit and mango sticky rice from the corner mart in Koh Yao Noi.  The little meat stand in the center of the island where we stuffed our faces every night, but most of all, I miss Mama’s Chicken in Tonsai.  I ate most of their menu and despite the filth and dirty feel of Tonsai their menu rocked.  From lassie’s, and shakes, to fried rice, curry and cashew dishes I recommend closing your eyes and pointing…whatever you choose is spectacular.

Aside from the amazing climbing at Koh Yao Noi I also enjoyed the culture and people.  I’m not much into the hostel life and spent my nights nestled in a bivy and hammock, but Namtok Bungalow changed my view towards hostels.  This place was filled with the friendliest people from all over the world.  Although at times I felt smooshed in between a Swedish ghetto. I did meet many faces I hope to see again on my future travels.  Shout outs to Marie, Ulrica, Hampus, Kenny, Karn, Sarah and Jason.  Maybe I’ll see you all someday when I’m in Sweden or the UK.  If you hit up a climbing destination I’d highly recommend staying at a climbing hostel.  Even if just for a few nights the people you meet might become friends for a lifetime.

Koh Yao Noi Sunrise

Sunrise in Koh Yao Noi near Namtok Bungalows

Trevor left in the early hours of the morning. After a handshake and a short goodbye he trekked on his way to Bangkok by Krabi Airport.  I slept in until 10:30 AM and then continued my hitch hiking adventure from where it left off in Krabi.

I stood at the Shell gas station for the better part of four hours.  Dressed in black and navy blue long pants the sun scorched my body. Sweat dripped down my arms and face and people looked at me and just smiled.  I just stood there, smiled, my hair blowing in the wind, flying a sign that said, “Trang” in Thai.  A few stopped to help me pointing out the bus station. I kindly thanked them, but declined their offer. An employee of the Shell drove me to the bus station.  I misunderstood him since many meanings come from the repeated phrase, “Trang, Trang..Trang” and ended up walking back to the same gas station where he worked.  After a few hours without any luck an older Thai gentleman walked by and tried helping me.  He spoke broken English, but understood I didn’t want his money, just a ride to Satun or Trang.  He kindly offered to take me to the bus station. At this point I gave in to the bus.  I stood outside in the same spot for hours flying a sign and didn’t eat at all.  So I thought it might be the only way out of here.  After sitting at the stop for a half hour and regaining my composure I thought of the time I spent hitch hiking in Fruita, Colorado.  A smile broke out on my face and I began to smirk.  Why do you ask?  Well, Marien and I spent two days clung to an on-ramp in Fruita trying to hitch through Utah.  We sat there patiently for a few days until getting a ride so four hours of waiting in Krabi, Thailand was nothing.

I asked the clerk the price to Satun Thailand from Krabi.  He typed 243 into the calculator and pointed at it.  I only have 700 baht left and 300 of that is for the ferry so I walked away and headed back towards the gas station holding back a slight smile.

After much patience a single mom of two, young kids pulled off and rolled down the window.  She motioned me into the vehicle as she was headed towards Trang.  I hopped in expecting to get dropped off in Trang, but after much chit chat she mentioned meeting up in Satun Thailand with her mother so I ended up staying along for the ride.

I almost regretted this ride.  Imagine five hours of driving with screaming, yelling, kicking, and crying in the back seat.  It wore me out, but after a few stops and playing with the kids I began to like them.  The little Thai girl would play the slap game where you try to hit the other person’s hands before they pull them away.  She also enjoyed putting clips in my hair and pulling on my curls.  The little Thai boy just sat there in the back seat with his eyes glued to a tablet playing video games. It reminded me of America.

Sirikorn, the mother of the two kids, invited me to dinner and offered a place for me to stay for the night.

We arrived in Satun Thailand right after the sunset in the mountains.  Much of the drive to Satun Thailand meandered through the mountains.  I cast my eyes upon many shades of green, jungle scenery as we cruised through the back roads.  Palm oil trees, deciduous trees, coconut trees and other tropical plants interlaced throughout the mountainous lands.  I enjoyed hitching through this region.  I felt like I finally got off the beaten path of Route 4 and into something new, flavorful and full of color.

I stretched my legs and sat down again to indulge in dinner.  Plates full of Chinese and Thai dishes covered the table.  I can’t recall what we ate, but the spices made my eyes water and nose drip and despite the pain I could not put my utensils down.  I just kept eating until my stomach hurt.

The lot of us fit in the car with the addition of Sirikorn’s mom.  She took us all for dessert and I ended up eating a bowl of soy milk with gelatin in it.  The kids finally settled down, but once they polished off dessert the bickering and rough housing came back quickly.  At this point I didn’t mind.  Kids are kids whether American, Thai, Malay, Chinese, etc. I just looked forward to sleep.

As we approached her mom’s house we continued on past it and I became confused.  She told me her mother wanted a better place for me to stay that her home wasn’t suitable for my needs.  I didn’t care at this point. Despite it being dark I found many places to sleep in the past and this night wasn’t any different.  She continued driving and stopped at a hotel.  Now, by no means did I ask her to pay for it, but she did, out of the kindness of her heart.  I guess she felt bad for saying I could sleep at her mom’s and then changing plans…I’m not sure.

Regardless I ended up in a comfy bed with a warm shower and read myself to a peaceful slumber (A Life in Metal)

She shut the door behind her as she left and told me to be ready at 7:30 AM for Hat Yai and after accompanying her she would drive me back to Satun Thailand to catch the ferry for Langkawi.

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